By Claudette Roulo
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s trip to Iraq this week served two purposes: to talk with and thank U.S. troops deployed there and to meet with Iraq’s leaders, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters today.
Hagel met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, President Fuad Masum and Defense Minister Khalid al-Ubaidi to talk about their efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Kirby said.
The leaders also discussed the progress being made in establishing a unity government, the admiral said, as well as some of that government’s initiatives.
“And, as [the secretary] said publicly after the meetings, he came away encouraged that the decisions they're making are in the right direction and that we are making progress against ISIL,” Kirby said.
Hagel drew two main conclusions from the meetings, the admiral said.
Iraqi Leaders Committed to New Government
“One, that they're very committed to this new government and to moving Iraq forward politically and in a more inclusive way,” he said. “And that means reform, particularly reform of the Iraqi security forces.”
One place that commitment has already been demonstrated is in the Iraqi security forces, Kirby said, which crumbled in the face of ISIL’s advance this summer. Iraq’s defense minister has since replaced more than 20 generals with more competent individuals, he said.
“Number two, they're very, very committed to the fight against ISIL,” the admiral said. Iraq’s prime minister indicated a desire for more heavy weaponry and additional coalition airstrikes, Kirby said, noting, “All that is in the context of their commitment to continue to go against this enemy.”
Iraq’s desire to go on the offensive against ISIL was a theme common to both of Hagel’s meetings in Baghdad, the admiral said.
“This is a government, this is a military that ... is not interested in simply remaining in a defensive posture, and they've shown that,” he said.
“They've defended Haditha Dam. They've retaken the Mosul Dam, as you know. They have connected to their forces defending the Beiji oil refinery. They have a campaign plan, and they very much are in the process of working that out,” Kirby said.